"The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude." Julia Child

Sunday, May 12, 2013


There's a really great Jewish bakery a mile or so from my apartment, which is conveniently located across the street from Henry's vet. After a recent vet appointment, I stopped in for a rye bagel with whitefish salad. Enjoying the sandwich on our walk home I thought, "Do I dare try to make my own bagels?"

Peter Reinhart's recipe and handy bagel making resource gave me the courage to try. 

Yield: 6 bagels
220 calories per bagel
Active time: 20 minutes
Total time: Overnight proof required, about 15 hours

the dough
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1 teaspoon yeast
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1¼ cup lukewarm water
3 cups high gluten flour
1/2 cup rye flour

the poaching liquid
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3-4 quarts water

the day before:
1. In a 2 cup Pyrex measuring cup, combine the lukewarm water, yeast, and a pinch of sugar. Set aside for 10 minutes. Given the small amount of yeast, there won't be a lot of foam.

2. In your stand mixer bowl, combine the flours and salt.

3. Add the agave nectar to the yeast mixture, stirring to mix.

4. With the dough hook attached, "stir" the flour mixture in your stand mixer bowl, slowly adding the yeast mixture. "The dough should form a stiff, coarse ball, and the flour should be fully hydrated; if it isn't, stir in a little more water." 

5. Knead, on "stir", for 3 minutes.

6. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.

7. Knead, on "stir", for another 3 minutes. "The dough should be stiff yet supple, with a satiny, barely tacky feel. If the dough seems too soft or overly tacky, mix or knead in a little more flour."

8. Turn the dough out onto your counter top, knead by hands a few turns, form a ball, and place into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. 

9. Turn the dough out onto your counter top and divide into six equal portions.

10. One at a time, roll the piece into a ball and gently roll the dough against the counter top, forming an 8 inch long rope.

11. Place one end of the rope in the palm of your hand and wrap the rope around your hand, overlapping about 2 inches of the ends and squeezing them together to seal. 

12.Gently roll the bagel against the counter top to close the seams. Or, pinch them closed. 

13. Place the bagel on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. 

14. Repeat with the remaining five pieces. 

15. Cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate, at least 12 hours. 

the day of:
16. Remove the bagels from the refrigerator 60-90 minutes before you plan to bake them.  They'll have only risen slightly. (The photo on the right was taken after 12 hours in the fridge.) 

17. About 30-45 minutes after you've removed the bagels from the fridge, check to see if they're ready for baking by using the “float test” by placing one of the bagels in a small bowl of cold water. If it sinks and doesn't float back to the surface, shake it off, return it to the pan, and wait for another 15 to 20 minutes, then test it again. (The photo on the top right is after 75 or so minutes after the bagels were removed from the fridge.)

18. After the bagels have passed the float test, return them to the fridge, preheat your oven to 500 degrees, and prepare the poaching liquid by bringing 3-4 quarts of water to a boil and then adding in the baking soda, agave nectar, and salt.

19. Turn the poaching liquid to simmer. 

20. Gently lower each bagel into the pot. The bagels should float to the surface within 15 seconds. After 1 minute, flip the bagel over, and and allow to simmer for 60 more seconds. (The water should be at least 4 inches deep. You can simmer as many as will fit comfortably in the pot.)

21. Place the bagels, domed side up, on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet and sprinkle with desired toppings. 

22. Decrease the oven temperature to 450 degrees, bake for 8 minutes, rotate the pan, and bake until golden brown, about 8-12 more minutes. See step 13 of "spicy black bean bread" for more on testing for doneness. 

Original recipe found here.


  1. Hi,
    If you want to eliminate the seams, instead of rolling the dough balls into ropes, just stick your thumbs through the centre of each ball and sort of twiddle your thumbs by rotating your hands. This will stretch the dough into hoops. Lay them on a lightly floured surface. The hoops will tend to contract as the dough relaxes, so you'll need to give them a quick stretch again before covering and refrigerating.

    If it were me, I'd leave out all the sweeteners, too. When I return to the US on visits, I find that all the bread is much too sweet.